DEAR DR. ROACH: I am turning 68 years old tomorrow. For the past couple of months, my ear canals have been very itchy. Also, my wife was constantly cleaning earwax out of my ears. Now for some reason I no longer produce earwax, but my ears itch a lot. Do you have any idea what may be causing this? How do I stop the itching? I have tried olive oil. It seems to work but not really that well. A doctor looked in my ear and said the ear canals look fine.

— R.K.

ANSWER: Happy birthday.

Itching in the ear canals is common, but usually an exam is able to lead the examiner to at least suspect a diagnosis. An incipient ear infection is one common reason, but your issue has been going on for months. Skin conditions that itch, such as eczema, is another common one. The doctor might have seen this, but sometimes the findings are subtle. Just having dry skin is a common cause, especially in winter, and olive oil is one treatment, but if it isn’t working it’s time to stop.

I often see people make their problem worse by using inappropriate therapies, especially peroxide, and also by putting objects in the ear to scratch it. This can lead to abrasions, lacerations and worse that I won’t horrify you with.
I would get the ear looked at again, and if there still is nothing to see, one treatment is a mild prescription steroid drop for a period of time. Your regular doctor or an ear/nose/throat specialist would be a good choice.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I am 76, female, healthy, do not take any meds and am scheduled for a total knee replacement in three days. During the testing, they made an incidental discovery on the CT scan of “a possible right sided right Hutch diverticulum of the bladder” and “two prominent right external iliac lymph nodes, measuring up to 15 and 13 mm in short axis.”

My surgical team did not respond, and my internist says “do not worry,” with no explanation. I would greatly appreciate your opinion.

— L.M.

ANSWER: A Hutch diverticulum is a congenital condition, a small pouch in the wall of the bladder. They are seldom diagnosed in adults. They can be associated with infection and stones, but if you have had no problem with either of those conditions, I would certainly advise against doing anything about it.

The external iliac lymph nodes are structures in the hip, and like all lymph nodes, may enlarge in the presence of infection or inflammation. Yours are definitely enlarged, with less than 8-10 mm considered normal. Although we worry about enlarged lymph nodes as a symptom or sign of cancer, it’s thought to be cancer only about 1 percent of the time. After you recover from surgery, it may be worth taking another look to see if they have shrunk. If they are persistently enlarged, especially if they are growing, some physicians would recommend a biopsy to be sure it is nothing to worry about.

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Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to [email protected] or send mail to 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.